Rand Paul’s Filibuster scores a goal… or does it?

Eric Holder has issued a partial response to Rand Paul following yesterday’s marathon filibuster, in a letter read aloud by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:

‘‘It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’’

‘‘The answer to that question is no.’’

Whew. Now we know that the Obama administration doesn’t think it can kill Americans on US soil who aren’t engaged in combat. But given the Obama administration’s loose definitions of who qualifies as a combatant (all military-aged males) or who counts as being engaged in combat (people whose patterns of behaviour seem to match those of a terrorist), Paul probably shouldn’t count this as a victory just yet.

Moreover, Holder is probably counting his blessings that Paul did not press the issue of non-Americans (or non-people in the US perspective) being targeted by US drone strikes, because then he would have to explain why 4,700+ people have been killed, some of whom without ever having been identified either before or after they were literally blown into pieces by Hellfire missiles. And of course, when drones have killed 4,700+ non-Americans/non-people abroad, and zero domestically, Holder (and Paul) should be prioritizing the constituents of the zero casualty denomination. After all, we have to keep racism alive in this country somehow, don’t we? 

UPDATE: Kevin Jon Heller has added some very meaningful questions to the discussion on Holder’s response to Paul

(1) “Engaged in combat” seems like a much broader standard than “senior operational leader,” which the recently disclosed White Paper described as a necessary condition of killing an American citizen overseas. Does that mean the President can kill an American citizen inside the US who is a lower-ranking member of al-Qaeda or an associated force?

(2) Why (to second Marcy Wheeler) did Holder delete one word from Paul’s question, changing “notactively engaged in combat” to “not engaged in combat”? Does that indicate that the President can kill an American inside the US whose activities qualify as “engaging in combat” even if they would not qualify as “actively engaging in combat”? What is the difference? What does the US understand by “actively”?

(3) What does “engaged in combat” mean? That is a particularly important question, given that Holder did not restrict killing an American inside the US to senior operational leaders and deleted “actively” from Paul’s question. Does “engaging” require participation in planning or executing a terrorist attack? Does any kind of direct participation in hostilities qualify? Do acts short of direct participation in hostilities — such as financing terrorism or propagandizing — qualify? Is mere membership, however loosely defined by the US, enough?

One thought on “Rand Paul’s Filibuster scores a goal… or does it?

  1. Pingback: April is Anti-Drone Action Month in the US | The Drone Fallacy

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